Crowdfunding steps in to save one of Prague’s most famous cafés

Public donations have saved a café steeped in Prague history from extinction. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 09.02.2022 13:57:00 (updated on 10.02.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

When new tenants took over a historic location in the old station building of Prague’s Hlavní nádraží to resurrect the famous Fanta’s Café (Fantova kavárna) in 2020, they couldn’t have predicted what the two following years would bring.

The original Fanta’s Café was long located in the old section of Prague’s main railway station before it was replaced by a chain called Café Coffee Day in 2015. Two years ago, new tenants tried to bring the old café back in all its former glory. But the Covid pandemic wreaked havoc with their opening plans and ultimately left them fighting for survival.

With no income possible during long Covid lockdowns, the company had to find an alternative way of paying the bills and keeping staff. A crowdfunding page was therefore set up with a target of CZK 250,000 to keep Fanta’s Café afloat.

Now, the company has finally passed its target amount; the crowdfunding page lists a total donation amount of over CZK 260,000, from 415 contributors.

Donations gave people the opportunity to enjoy a range of benefits, from a unique postcard from the café for donation of CZK 150, to vouchers of various sizes, the opportunity to attend a charity handicraft workshop at the café, and the opportunity to rent the café for the largest donations.

“Everything looked fantastic, but the first wave of the Covid crisis came and we had to postpone the grand opening by three months… Then the second wave came and we had to close completely. Now we are literally fighting for survival,” the café’s owners wrote when the crowdfunding effort began.

Fanta's Café interior / photo via
Fanta's Café interior / photo via

The success of the crowdfunding mission means the owners will be able to continue their goal of restoring Fanta’s Café as one of the Czech capital’s top social spots. The café is also intended as a tribute to Josef Fanta, the architect who designed the Art Nouveau spaces of the old railway station building.

When designing the recreated Fanta's Café, the tenants visited descendants of Fanta himself to obtain period photographs of the space, which are now on display in the café itself.

Fanta’s design for the railway building was inspired by the famous North Station in Paris, which served as a model for many European train stations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The original Fanta's Café was established in the early 1990s, after the building was listed as a cultural monument in 1991.

Besides restoring the café’s famous name and style, the owners also want to make Fanta’s a favorite location for top-quality coffee. The café’s signature brew is Diemme coffee, an Italian coffee blend with a history going back almost a century, to around the same time as the creation of the old railway building.

In some ways, the café culture represented by Fanta’s seems to offer an alternative to the increasing importance of online interactions in today's world. But it’s clear that without help from the online community in the form of crowdfunding, Fanta’s Café, and the history it aims to preserve, might have had to shut down for good. 

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